July 05, 2012
On June 18, 2012, the Supreme Court announced its decision in Williams v. Illinois. The issue in this case was whether a defendant’s Confrontation Clause rights were violated when an expert witness for the prosecution testified at trial about the results of a DNA test in which the expert witness had not been involved, and which had been performed by an out-of-state analyst who was not present at the trial. The Supreme Court of Illinois found no violation of the Confrontation Clause.
By a vote of 5-4, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the state supreme court’s judgment. Justice Alito, joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Kennedy and Breyer, agreed that admission of the expert testimony about the DNA test results did not violate the Confrontation Clause, because they considered the testimony either not hearsay or not offered for the truth of the matter asserted. Justice Thomas concurred in the judgment, agreeing that there was no Confrontation Clause violation--but only because he deemed the statements at issue not to be “testimonial.” Justice Breyer filed a separate concurring opinion. Justice Kagan filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justices Scalia, Ginsburg and Sotomayor.
To discuss the case we have John O’Quinn, who is a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, LLP.